By Jennifer P. Rendon
Barely two weeks before the national and local polls, the number of election areas of concerns or “hotspots” in Western Visayas remain unchanged.
Lieutenant Colonel Arnel Solis, Police Regional Office (PRO)-6 spokesperson, said that they could not tell yet if the number would remain the same days before the election.
“But whether it would go up or not, we are ready,” Solis said.
PRO-6 has been on full alert status before the Holy Week.
Solis said they already identified areas for the deployment of troops.
The Regional Joint Security Coordinating Center (RJSCC) has also eyed areas where members of the Philippine Army would take the lead in security coverage.
The RJSCC is chaired by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) with the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard as its members.
“I believe we have covered concerns, as far as security requirements for the national and local elections are concerned,” he said.
Personnel who will fill undermanned areas were already alerted once they would be sent off.
“Their order is ready for issuance,” Solis said.
It can be noted that the number of election watchlist areas is about one-third of Western Visayas’ 16 cities and 117 municipalities.
The election hotspots are color-coded, as stated under COMELEC Resolution No. 10757 (In The Matter of Placing Some Areas in the Country Under COMELEC Control; and Establishment of COMELEC Command Center for Purposes of the May 09, 2022 National and Local Elections.)
“Green” areas are those with no security concerns or is relatively peaceful and orderly.
The “Yellow” category are commonly known as areas of concern while “Orange” are areas of immediate concern.
On the other hand, “Red” are areas of grave concern.
The 44 election hotspots are composed of:
▪ Yellow – 4
▪ Orange – 35
▪ Red – 5
Under the Category Red are Calinog town in Iloilo; and Candoni, Moises Padilla, Escalate City, and Calatrava in Negros Occidental.
Those considered in Category Orange are the towns of Bingawan, Lambunao, Maasin, Janiuay, Alimodian, San Joaquin, Tubungan, Miag-ao, Igbaras, Leon, Lemery, San Dionisio, and Sara in Iloilo province; Maayon, Dumalag, and Tapaz in Capiz; Manapla, Silay City, Victorias City, Toboso, Binalbagan, Himamaylan City, Kabankalan City, Hinoba-an, Sipalay City, Isabela, La Castellana, Ilog, and Cauayan in Negros Occidental; Libacao in Aklan; and Hamtic, Sibalom. San Remigio, Culasi, and Sebaste in Antique.
The Category Yellow included Don Salvador Benedicto and Bacolod City in Negros Occidental; Laua-an in Antique; and Pilar in Capiz.
Based on COMELEC Resolution No. 10757, an areas shall be placed under Category Yellow upon the existence of any of the following factors:
- occurrence of suspected election-related incident (ERI) in the last two elections provided there was no participation of domestic terror groups;
- existence of intention partisan political rivalry with no participation of domestic terror groups;
- possible employment of partisan armed groups by candidates in the area;
- occurrence of political-motivated ERI in the current election period, provided there is no participation of domestic terror groups; or
- the area has been previously declared under COMELEC control.
An area shall be placed under Category “Orange” upon the existence of the following factors:
- combination of two or more factors under Category Yellow; or
- there is serious armed threats posed by the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG), and/or other threat groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Maute Group, and Abu Sayyaf Group, and other analogous threats groups as may be declared by competent authority.
Meanwhile, an area shall be placed under Category “Red” upon:
- the existence of one or more factors described under Category Yellow, together with serious armed threats posed by CTG and or other threat groups; or
- declaration by other government agencies concerned that either one of the grounds in Section 3.
These grounds include
* history of/or current intense rivalry among the contending parties. Such rivalries could motivate people to engage in violent acts;
* The areas has been previously declared under COMELEC control;
* Incidence of politically-motivated valance involving aspirants/candidates and/or their supporters;
* Violence may be facilitated by the employment of PAGs:
* Serious armed threats by the CTF and other threat groups.
As stated in the same resolution, the Comelec En Banc, among others, may direct the augmentation of PNP and AFP personnel, as the need arises in hotspot areas.
It could reshuffle police force in such areas.
Further, the Category Red classification may warrant the motu proprio deflation of COMELEC Control.